YouthESource

The Rookie: Clearing the Clutter

Clean it out. Make room. Get rid of it. Get ready.
I love spring cleaning! Actually, I usually don’t even wait for spring. Every once in a while, I just get the urge to clean everything! If you ask anyone who has lived with me, they’ll tell you that I am not a fan of clutter. Everything has a place, but there is only so much space to be had! Almost every day, I look around my apartment and wonder what junk I can clear out. I believe that it is almost impossible to bring something new in without getting rid of something old. This is a practice that is never ending for me. So, why is it that my ministry ends up cluttered so often?
Think about the areas of your ministry with me. I serve at a small church, and we have Sunday School, youth group, children’s ministry events, developing relationships with students outside of events, trips to school campuses, meetings, bulletin and newsletter deadlines, errands, reports, preparations, children’s sermons, and that’s just off the top of my head! The amount of time I spend on each program or with each student just doesn’t feel adequate anymore. When does ministry become too cluttered to be effective?
One of the things I think we’ve all run into is that parents of our youth expect “busy-ness” in our youth programs. The number one complaint I receive from the congregation is that we’re just not doing enough! They love everything that we do, but they want more. I continually struggle with quality over quantity. If one youth event is able to effectively minister to youth, isn’t that better than three outings to mini-golf, bowling or skating? The problem is that the parents and congregation members don’t have the inside perspective to judge the quality of our programs.
In today’s world, our students spend more time than ever in after school sports and clubs. Then, our ministry tries to keep them busy by adding to their already hectic schedule. We get so busy trying to do everything for everyone, how do we make room for God to move and work in our students? Since our cluttered lives affect our spiritual lives so greatly, I spend some of my time with students focused on doing “nothing.” I teach my students about the importance of time with God, silent moments for reflection, and cleaning out the clutter!
Clutter in our lives is one of my favorite conversations with my students. There are some things in our lives that are definitely cluttering our hearts. Gossip. Negativity. Racism. Selfishness. Busyness. I could go on forever. These are things that mess up our hearts and crowd out the important things. When our lives are so consumed with the mess these things create, God is pushed out. Maybe He hasn’t been totally pushed away, but He has no room to move and work in us.
We know that cleaning out our lives entails giving up a few time commitments. We know that cleaning out our hearts involves leaving behind some bad habits. But, how do we clean out our ministries in a practical way?
For me, knowing what is cluttering up my ministry is the biggest part. I tend to feel that the things I plan lack quality because of my time management. So, poorly planned events become clutter. At my church, the “we’ve always done that” events lead to programs that are difficult to get rid of, but sometimes aren’t very effective.
A wise professor once taught me that saying “No” can be the healthiest thing for your ministry. While I love to make my students happy by taking them out for the more frivolous events, I keep them to a minimum. And, when I do those things, I use them as relationship building time. I focus on quality over quantity, and when I hear parents asking for more, I excitedly explain the next event to them. I’ve by no means perfected this, because it’s a constant struggle! But, once you know what is cluttering your ministry, it makes it easier to face the problem head on. That’s when you can clean it out. Make room for God. Get rid of the clutter. And get ready for what the Spirit has in store!

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